Volltext: Patterns of culture

  
  
  
  
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20 PATTERNS OF CULTURE 
cance to the life of his people, the domestic rituals of eat- 
ing, the obligations of the economic system, the succession 
of ceremonials in the villages, possession.in the bear dance, 
their standards of right and wrong—these were gone, 
and with them the shape and meaning of their life. The 
old man was still vigorous and a leader in relationships 
with the whites. He did not mean that there was any 
question of the extinction of his people. But he had in 
mind the loss of something that had value equal to that of 
life itself, the whole fabric of his people’s standards and 
beliefs. There were other cups of living left, and they 
held perhaps the same water, but the loss was irreparable. 
It was no matter of tinkering with an addition here, 
lopping off something there. The modelling had been 
fundamental, it was somehow all of a piece. It had been 
their own. 
Ramon had had personal experience of the matter of 
which he spoke. He straddled two cultures whose values 
and ways of thought were incommensurable. It is a hard 
fate. In Western civilization our experiences have been 
different. We are bred to one cosmopolitan culture, and 
our social sciences, our psychology, and our theology per- 
sistently ignore the truth expressed in Ramon's figure. 
The course of life and the pressure of environment, not 
to speak of the fertility of human imagination, provide an 
incredible number of possible leads, all of which, it ap- 
pears, may serve a society to live by. There are the 
schemes of ownership, with the social hierarchy that may 
be associated with possessions; there are material things 
and their elaborate technology; there are all the facets of 
sex life, parenthood and post-parenthood; there are the 
guilds or cults which may give structure to the society; 
there is economic exchange; there are the gods and super- 
natural sanctions. Each one of these and many more may 
be followed out with a cultural and ceremonial elabora- 
tion which monopolizes the cultural energy and leaves 
 
	        
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